14th of October, 2010 had a major significance to the farmers of several Farmer Field Schools in the larger Kitui County who had worked tirelessly to see to it that the day was a memorable one as it was the day that they were to graduate and hence the certificates which they were to be awarded meant a lot to them.
The air was full of anticipation as the farmers started their journey with song and dance, singing praises for the KFS, their respective Division Managers, the Project Coordinator and their when they boarded the KFS Bus that was taking them to the designated site for the graduation from Mutito and Zombe Areas of Kitui, which are in remote and arid areas characterized by lack of proper access roads, water and mainly long dry spells.
This was yet another one of Kenya Forest Service initiated community based participatory programme in partnership with other stakeholders e.g the Japanese Government, and the World Bank, in the feat to attaining the 10% tree cover by 2030, thro involving the farmers who are main population in the country through training them in agro based sustainable management of trees. This involves Agro Eco-System Analysis (AESA) methods to determine which species of trees and crops did best in their areas. This comprises of the groups using different soils, species of crops, in different conditions and analyzing which of the species did how in the different settings. When they get the desired results, then they can be in a position to make the best choices and thus help in alleviating hunger and reduce poverty levels in the area.
The graduation site was in Mutongoni Location where the host FFS – Safari had laid out the welcoming mat and a sumptuous meal awaited the guests from the KFS Headquarters, including Mr Luke Njuguna who was the representative of the Director who could not be in the function as he had prior commitment. The Coordinator of SCBFFE, Madam Jane Ndeti was also in attendance and you could see the love the farmers had for her whenever she stood up to speak. Also in attendance was Madam Nafasi Mfahaya, Mr. John Njoroge, Mr. Bundotich and a support team from the Headquarters. The Zonal Manager for Kitui Mr. Wanyiri was also in attendance with his team from the Zone and Tharaka Zone Manager, Mr. Muthembwa who had a team from his zone.
After the tour of the different projects that the host team had, the group settled down in one of the FFS member’s compound. One member from the group welcomed the guests after a prayer session for the day. He also invited the District Officer for Kitui West Mr. D. Aoko Odimba who represented the Provincial Administration. He invited the guests to the area and challenged the farmers to put to use the skills they had learnt to better themselves and the environment by using economically viable ways of conservation.
M/s Ndeti, the Project Coordinator introduced the group from Nairobi. She also echoed what the DO had earlier said that the farmers should put to practice whatever they had learned in the past year. She also talked in brief of the upcoming launch which was to be on the following day and congratulated them for their unrelenting efforts to learn as much as they could from the Farmer Field Schools.
The guest of honor for the day Mr. Luke Njuguna arose and gave a congratulatory speech from the Director Kenya Forest Service. The speech laid out the mandate of the KFS and the aim of the FFS as to create awareness of the importance of forests thro the farmers to reach the 10% tree cover goal which if the farmers applied and practiced what they learned in the school would greatly contribute in helping the Service realize that goal. He also gave out the importance of forests as; economically empowering to farmers who planted trees as they filled the gap left after the ban on logging by supplying the deficit. He also run down the importance of the farmers knowing the charcoal rules which the KFS tries to regulate the way the Charcoal business is handled bearing in mind the area is an interested party. Mr. Njuguna urged the farmers to keep and work with the other networks (FFS networks) , take what they had leant to their villages and lead by example.
The presentation of the certificates to the graduates was a grand affair which was to be done to all the farmers who had participated in the FFS’s. There was a hushed excitement and expectation as each certificate was awarded.
When it came to “Groups Dynamics” as the called the dancing session there were hilarious moments when it came to “Kunengua Viuno” with shows of “military drills”, the FFS “Anthem” Poems. Everyone had to stand to attention when the Anthem was on. The songs were basically telling on what they had leant in their Field Schools, praises for the KFS. The guests were called, cajoled and teased to come to the front and dance to the Kamba tunes. It was amazing how those ladies could dance regardless of their ages.
Everyone agreed it was a very short day indeed as they headed home with their treasured certificates bearing in mind that their efforts had been rewarded and with a new zeal to put into use what they had leant.
Report by Rahab Gitau